Chelsea’s 5-3 defeat at Liverpool was significant for a number of reasons. The five goals shipped at Anfield was the most the Blues have conceded all season, making it three away defeats in their last four outings.
Almost every player came under fire for the humiliation, none more so than Kepa Arrizabalaga. A goalkeeper will never escape lightly when conceding five times, especially when facing just seven shots all game.
It was not Arrizabalaga’s night at Anfield, there is no debating that. But what followed crossed a line.
The Spaniard has faced criticism all season long, but Wednesday’s embarrassment escalated it to a new level. Social media was filled with slander for the 25-year-old, most of it abusive and hateful. Reports of death threats emerged, as his personal platforms were littered with disgraceful comments from so-called Chelsea fans.
Whether they were slamming Arrizabalaga’s ability, demanding he leaves the club or sending vile hate-filled abuse, it was a full onslaught – all because of a game of football.
There is no denying that it has been a difficult season for the goalkeeper, on and off the pitch. Many performances have not been up to standard, leading to him losing his place in goal for a lengthy spell.
Blues fans are frustrated – and understandably – but the treatment of their own number one has been unjustified.
While fans are entitled to criticise and state their opinion, there comes a point where it becomes unacceptable. When people feel the need to directly send abuse, ganging up on a player they should be supporting with the sole intention to express hate, that cannot be condoned.
No one deserves such ill treatment, not least a 25-year-old goalkeeper at a Premier League club. It is hard to know how Arrizabalaga feels amid his current form, but it does not take much guessing to imagine the pain and anguish caused by his fans’ abhorrent abuse.
The toxicity of Chelsea’s online fanbase has been exposed far too often this season, the latest episode another proof in the pudding. Arrizabalaga has been villainised and ridiculed, and whatever your opinion on his ability is, he should not be treated so badly.
As a footballer, Arrizabalaga does not deserve this. However hard it may be on the pitch, there is no excuse for the hate and abuse he has received. As a human, no one should have to endure this level of attack for a game. Football is important, but at the end of the day, it is just a game.
The worst part is Arrizabalaga is not the first Chelsea player to be abused.
Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma have endured disgraceful racism, purely based on the colour of their skin. Reece James and Ross Barkley have had to limit comments on their Instagram profiles, such is the extent of the abuse faced. This is nothing new, which perhaps is the most worrying fact of them all.
Arrizabalaga is enduring a massive confidence blow, one which could be irreversible. For the goalkeeper who kept 23 clean sheets and won the Europa League last season, the hate campaign against him has been troublesome to see. He does not deserve this treatment, let alone from his very own fans.
Chelsea made the same mistake with Álvaro Morata – once a clinical striker at Stamford Bridge, he never emerged from his rut after seeing his confidence slashed. If Arrizabalaga does not recover from this period and continues to receive such widespread abuse, he will never be the same player again.
Fans should support their club through thick and thin, backing the players and always getting behind the team. But abusing their own players and sending death threats does no good, and simply can never be justified.
Whether you believe he needs to be given time, and will be back to his best next season, or should be sold this summer, replaced with a world-class goalkeeper, there is one thing everyone can agree on.
Arrizabalaga deserves better.
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